Monastery Beach is an intermediate paddling destination in Carmel. Be prepared to launch through the waves into a steep drop-off, followed by a dense kelp forest and rolling waves. This is not a safe swimming destination — they call it “mortuary beach”. The paddler’s reward is the sight of Lion’s Mane jellyfish with their stomachs unfurled, gliding just below your boat.
Pfeiffer day use beach offers gorgeous scenery, a sand climbing hill for the kids, and a great place to picnic. It’s a narrow one-way road to get down to the beach, so leave the big rigs up top. McWay waterfall is a short, scenic, and crowded day hike. Sadly, the beach at the base of the falls is closed due to landslide. Hike inland to view Canyon Falls. When the campground at Julia Pfeiffer park is closed, they’ll often let you camp in the overflow lot for a reduced rate.
A Spanish cathedral and an Italian villa had a baby, and they named it Hearst Castle. This trip proved to be the perfect preview for our trip to Spain and Vienna. William Hearst did the “Grand Tour” of Europe as a boy, then sought to build an eclectic European castle on the California coast. Julia Morgan’s genius shines. Can you imagine working as an architect with a client who changed the blueprints daily? Julia masterfully blends building materials from Spain, Egypt, Greece, and Italy while making it all work together.
Ocean, pinot, ollalieberry pie, and views. What could be better? Start with a walk on the boardwalk at Moonstone Beach. Then head inland through town to the Stolo family winery for a pinot and cabernet flight. Finish the day with a mini ollalieberry pie in the garden at Linn’s farmstore.
Cold, foggy, and dreamy — Morro Bay inspires paddling and reading. Launch a kayak at Morro Bay State Park and paddle towards Morro Rock. Watch the winds. It was so blustery that we were paddling at full speed just to stay still! A beginning sailer capsized his boat and it took 3 folks from the coast guard to set it right. On a calm day, paddle to Morro Rock, picnic on the beach, and admire the seals. The campground at Morro Bay State Park is busy and crowded, but at least it has hot showers and a scenic trail around the neighboring wetlands. Resourceful paddlers access the showers just southeast of the boat launch to clean up after a day in the water.
Go on a Thursday evening for the farmers’ market, if you can. The whole downtown becomes a lively party, street fair, and local food tasting. Yum! Vendor stalls offer lots of dinner options. The sausage BBQ had the longest line. Eggplant parmesan and bratwurst were both delicious. After dinner, catch live music and enjoy the garden at Linnea’s Cafe. Then sip an espresso at the funky cafes on Higuera street. The next day, work off the calories at Bishop peak, which has expansive views and bouldering access. San Luis Obispo is an up-and-coming startup community. They have a coworking space, accelerator, incubator, and Start Up Weekend. The entrepreneurial community benefits from the energy of Cal Poly university and from a growing population of tech-savvy Los Angeles escapees. While SLO isn’t a beach town, the beach is a half hour away. Head south for sunny beaches, or north for the contemplative fog and friendly seals of Morro Bay.
Visit Sunstone for the architecture and gardens. Stay for the delicious wine. The tasting room is modeled after a Tuscan winery, with all the stones imported from Tuscany. $15 buys a tasting flight. The pinot noir is rich and well-balanced. They do offer snacks on site, but they’re pricey. Take your tasting glass out to the garden and enjoy a budget “Tuscan” vacation.
From San Diego, we headed north on the highway 1 towards Santa Barbara. We stopped in Malibu to watch the kite surfers, then headed up the coast. In Santa Barbara, we tried stand up paddling boarding in the ocean. Thank you to Nima from VW Viaje for teaching us how to paddle board! Channel Islands Outfitters rents boards on the beach. While walking to the shop, stop by On The Alley in the harbor for a delicious fish taco. At Arroyo Burro beach, you can swim with your dog. Follow the signs to the dog-friendly south side of the beach. Finish up the day with a hike at the Douglas Family Preserve, another dog-friendly spot. If the wind is right, you can launch a hang glider here.
After Zion, we headed back to Southern California. Lost Abbey specializes in abbey-style ales. Their “Angels Share” bourbon barrel trappist ale is smoky and rich. There’s a food truck just outside most days of the week. It’s a relaxing place to spend an afternoon.